Two Minnesota-Based Tax Return Preparers Convicted of Conspiracy, Preparing False Returns and Aggravated Identity Theft
After a five-day trial in Minneapolis, a federal jury convicted two Brooklyn Center-based tax return preparers of conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax crimes and aggravated identity theft, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
The jury convicted Ishmael Kosh, a resident of Philadelphia, of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and eight counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns. The jury convicted Amadou Sangaray, a resident of New York City, of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of aggravated identity theft and eight counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal income tax returns.
The defendants were charged in a second superseding indictment with alleged co-conspirators Chatonda Khofi, David Mwangi and Francis Saygbay for their involvement in Primetime Tax Services Inc., (Primetime) a tax preparation business with three locations in the Minneapolis area. All five defendants were charged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by preparing fraudulent individual federal income tax returns for customers of Primetime for tax years 2006, 2007 and 2008. According to court documents, during these years, the defendants and others filed more than 2,000 federal tax returns through Primetime.
“Today’s verdicts send a clear message that individuals who hold themselves out as tax return preparers, and then prepare and file false returns to steal from the U.S. Treasury, will be prosecuted and will face substantial incarceration and monetary penalties,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo. “The department, working with the Internal Revenue Service and its other law enforcement partners, is committed to holding these fraudulent return preparers, and those who participate in their illegal enterprises, accountable for their criminal conduct.”
Evidence introduced at trial established that in late 2006, defendants Kosh, Sangaray and Khofi set up a Primetime storefront in Brooklyn Center, where they prepared false tax returns that reported false dependents using stolen identities, fake business income and losses, inflated deductions, and inflated credits and false filing status, all to inflate customers’ tax refunds. The defendants directed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to send their customers’ refunds to Primetime and then withdrew the return preparation fees from the refund. When a customer came to the office to retrieve their refund check or debit card, the defendants sometimes escorted that customer to a check-cashing location or an ATM and demanded an additional cash fee.
After the guilty verdicts, the court determined that Sangaray was a flight risk and he was detained pending sentencing. The defendants’ sentencings are scheduled for Jan. 5, 2016. At sentencing, the defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy, a statutory maximum sentence three years in prison for each count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for aiding aggravated identity theft. They also face substantial financial penalties and restitution.
“The Internal Revenue Service works very hard to stop these fraudulent refund and identity theft schemes,” said Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of IRS-Criminal Investigation. “The fraudulent actions of these tax return preparers have caused undue harm to their clients and to the American taxpayers.”
In November 2014, Mwangi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and Khofi pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. In 2013, Stephanie Robinson, a defendant in a related case who worked at Primetime, pleaded guilty to filing her own false return and aiding and assisting the preparation of a false return. Saygbay is set for trial on Nov. 2.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended the special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Dennis R. Kihm, Thomas W. Flynn and Ryan R. Raybould and Paralegal Saundra Burgess of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case. Ciraolo also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota for their substantial assistance.